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Undergraduate Presentation Tips

Undergraduate Presentation Tips

APS meetings provide opportunities to keep up to date with current research, learn about career options available to physics degree holders, and participate in professional development activities. Conferences are also avenues for making great connections with students, mentors, and even potential employers. By presenting your research at an APS meeting, you are making a valuable contribution to the scientific community and participating in a constructive dialog with colleagues.

Choosing Your Presentation Format

The APS March and April meeting scientific programs are made up of parallel sessions that include both oral and poster research presentations. There are advantages and disadvantages for each.

Oral Presentations

Oral sessions consist of a series of individual talks that are twelve minutes in duration. An oral presentation has the following characteristics:

  • Presentation is given by one speaker to an audience (meeting attendees)
  • The talk is generally given using slides (such as PowerPoint or Keynote)
  • The talk time is limited, with one to two minutes of questions at the end

Advantages of oral presentations:

  • Active time commitment is low (talk takes less than 15 minutes)
  • Potentially larger audience (depending on attendee interest in the session)

Disadvantages of oral presentations:

  • Limited time to establish context of research (e.g., motivations, background)
  • Little opportunity for an in-depth discussion of results with colleagues
  • Unnerving for those who dislike presenting to larger groups

Poster Presentations

Poster sessions typically take place in large time blocks, usually in the afternoon. Speakers are expected to be available with their posters and to speak about their research for the duration of the session. Poster presentations have the following characteristics:

  • Speaker interacts with audience one-on-one, answering questions as they arise
  • Talks are supplemented with a 36x48" poster, which is tacked to a freestanding board at in-person meetings or available online for virtual conferences.
  • Talks are not timed and discussions can continue as long as the speaker and audience desire

Advantages of poster sessions:

  • More in-depth (possibly more enjoyable) discussion of research with colleagues
  • More comfortable for those who dislike speaking to large groups

Disadvantages of poster sessions:

  • Time commitment is longer (most sessions run three hours)
  • Potentially smaller audience than oral sessions

Choosing Your Session

Undergraduates have the option of presenting in a general session or an undergraduate-only session. There are a number of factors to consider when deciding what type of session to present in. Either choice represents an important opportunity for professional development, so decide based on your personal and professional goals.

Advantages of speaking in an undergrad only session:

  • Presenters are eligible for an FPD Meeting Award
  • Talks are potentially less intimidating in a primarily undergraduate audience
  • Trained mentors provide constructive feedback on the presentations

Disadvantages of speaking in an undergrad session:

  • Audience is typically limited to undergrads and their mentors
  • Less opportunities to network with researchers in a specific field

Abstracts for undergrad-only sessions must be submitted under the "Undergraduate Research" sorting category.

Perfect Your Presentation

Dress in a Way that Makes You Feel Confident

You may notice that some attendees choose to dress more professionally while others dress more casually. How you present yourself is your choice. Our only advice is to be mindful of how you want to appear to other attendees and decide what to wear based on your own preference. If you will have your video on during the talk, it can help to take a quick look and minimize distractions in your background. You can also choose to use a virtual background.

Understand the Mechanics of the Session

Oral presentations run under a very tight schedule, so it's important that you are able to load and display your slides in a timely manner when it is your turn to speak. Read through the APS AV policies to ensure sure you have the correct equipment before you head to the meeting. Every meeting, including virtual ones, provides a Speaker Ready Room, which you can use to familiarize yourself with the setup and do a practice run.

Logistics for Oral Presenters

Practice Your Presentation

Take time to practice your talk before your presentation. Session chairs must keep a tight schedule, so be sure to time yourself. Run through your presentation and anticipate possible questions.

Watch This Webinar

Advice and techniques on improving your oral and poster research presentations.

Webinar: Improving Your Undergraduate Research Presentation

Attend Your Session

Come early and introduce yourself to the session chair. It is polite to attend the entire session, so be attentive from the first talk to the last. If something prevents you from staying for the full session, be sure to see at least one speaker before your scheduled talk.